Sonos ZonePlayer S5 Wireless Music System Speaker System for iPod and iPhone

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All I can say is .....FINALLY! Sonos has a half-price sale.

Nov 12, 2009 (Updated Nov 14, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:great sounding, portable all-in-one device further simplifies Sonos system, makes it more accessible.

Cons:requires additional equipment for owners without current Sonos network.

The Bottom Line: Ever considered Sonos for whole-house wireless music? Liked it but gagged at the price? With the new S5 Zoneplayer, pricetag is sliced and simplicity enhanced.


BACKGROUND

Anyone who has pondered the topic of wireless, whole-house sound systems will have stumbled across a number of providers of solutions. One of those names would likely be Sonos, a maker of premium wireless or wired components that form a home music network of very high quality. Reviews of the Sonos system and its parts are almost uniformly positive. The gear is well-made. The Sonos mesh network is strong, performs well and actually improves its performance as more Sonos zones are added.

There is just one problem. 

Sonos equipment is expensive. Possibly the most expensive whole-house wireless music option you can buy. The cheapest entry point has required a $100 "Zonebridge" that connects directly to your router via ethernet (to create the Sonos network in your home) and a $400 "Zoneplayer", which taps into that Sonos network and provides an audio signal to your audio equipment.

You have now spent $500, yet unless you connect that Zoneplayer to your own audio amp and speakers, you are hearing nothing. The cost of your own speakers and amplifier adds another $500 at least. So, add up the numbers. 100 plus 400 plus 500 equals $1000 just to  establish your first wireless Sonos "zone" in your home. Pretty steep for most of us. You still need to add a controller! And you'll want to add other zones over time.

It's no wonder the Sonos system, fine as it is, is often not an option for the cost-consious consumer. Even the Sonos "bundles" weigh-in at over a thousand bucks just to get your feet wet with one zone.

That has now changed, with the release of the S5 Zoneplayer.

SONOS FOR HALF PRICE

With the release in November 2009 of the Zoneplayer S5, the price of entry into the world of Sonos has effectively been cut in half. Yes, the Zonebridge for $100 is still a must to create the network in your home. But instead of the additional $900 to create your first Zone, you can now simply pick up a Zoneplayer S5 for as low as $400.......AND the S5 is a clear improvement over previous Zoneplayers. Here's why......

ALL In ONE BOX

The S5 packs 4 speakers and 1 subwoofer into an attractive, clean-looking white enclosure. Think "Bose Soundock" only more attractive, slightly larger and taller, and far better sounding. A slightly arcing metal grille graces the entire front. Each speaker gets its own digital amplifier, and (this is the cool part) the enclosure also contains the electronic guts that allow it to connect with your Sonos network! 

A simpler explanation: Once you have established a Sonos wireless network in your home (by connecting the aforementioned $100 Zonebridge to your router), you can drop one of these S5's anywhere in your home that you want music. No need for your own speakers. No connections to external amps. Simply position an S5 in each location you want music. Plug it into the wall. There are no controls other than volume and mute. No other wires. A nice clean look. 
Previous Zoneplayers have always required external connections of some kind....either speakers or amp or both. The S5 has it all. 

Uh, well almost......

CONTROLLING

I mentioned earlier that the S5 can easily be added to AN EXISTING SONOS NETWORK. It should also be noted that you will need a Sonos Controller to operate the S5. That controller takes two forms....either the dedicated Sonos Controller 200 or the very good Sonos Controller for iPhone or iPod Touch, a free download from the Apple App Store. The controller software is excellent, easy to use and provides extensive control options for over 30 zones.

PERFORMANCE

Unpack the S5 (the packing materials and documentation are high-quality, a Sonos trademark), plug in the power cord, and use your controller to add the unit to your network....usually a 30-second task. That's it! The S5 is now operational. If you want Internet Radio, the options are amazingly abundant and you can start listening right away. If you want to play selections from, say, your iTunes library, your computer (or whatever device is hosting your iTunes library) will need to be on. The small white LED on the top of the case glows white to indicate you are properly connected to your network. This feature can be turned off via the settings menu of the controller.

A recess in the back of the S5 acts as a very useful handle and doubles as a venting port for the sub. It's easy to just grab the S5 and take it anywhere you want music in your home....deck, pool, etc. The back panel sports a headphone jack, 2 port ethernet (in case you want to plug-in your laptop or other device to access the internet via the S5) and analog audio line-in.The S5 sounds great as a one-room solution. The 10-pound unit packs a subwoofer that delivers fine on the low end. Twin mid-range and twin tweeters fill-out the rest of the audio spectrum. Equalization (bass, treble, loudness) is all adjusted via the controller.

OLD-SCHOOL FLEXIBILITY

If you'd rather just hook up your iPod and play music locally, the S5 comes with a mini-to-minijack cable. Plug one end into the back of the S5 and the other into your iPod. Use your controller to select LINE IN and you are in business.

If all you want to do is play music in the same room where your router is located, just connect the S5 directly to an empty port on your router using the included Ethernet cable, and you're done. No Zonebridge required.

FINAL WORD

By cutting the entry price essentially in half, the Sonos S5 Zoneplayer provides an attractive, great-sounding all-in-one option for either creating a new Sonos system or adding zones to an established system. By including speakers, amplifiers and mesh-network capability all inside one attractive, highly-portable device, Sonos has created a truly useful addition to its lineup of gear and even further simplified an already elegant home-music system.
 
The only caveats: folks new to Sonos and to the S5 (and wishing wireless versus wired operation) will need to establish their initial Sonos network via connection of a Zonebridge to their router. And the S5 does not include a remote control. You must use the Sonos Controller for Iphone or iPod Touch (a free download) or the dedicated Sonos Control 200 (or the older 100 model, which also works fine). My guess is....if you're in the market for Sonos equipment, chances are you already own an iPod Touch or iPhone so you already have the controller. Just download the free software from the Apple App Store and you're in business.

It seems clear that, by pricing this Zoneplayer so competitively, Sonos is looking to appeal not just to deep-pocketed gearheads, but to everyone who wants a high quality, simple to use and great-sounding wireless music network for their home.

A word of warning, though.....once you start down the Sonos road with your very first zone and you get used to the ease of use and accessibility of your music collection, you'll soon be thinking about where you can add another zone.....and another......and............


Recommend this product? Yes


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